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  • How to Draft an Effective Business Plan Considering the Legal Implications

The road to the creation of a new business is a long one that is often filled with unexpected challenges and accomplishments. While the unpredictable nature of starting a business can be appealing to some, for many there is value in developing a plan to help guide new owners through the first months and years of operation. For this reason, one of the most important steps that entrepreneurs can take when starting out is to carefully and thoughtfully develop a comprehensive business plan.

What Is a Business Plan?

A business plan is both a map and a marketing tool for your business. A business plan helps you carefully set forth the purpose, goals, and priorities of your new business, along with guideposts to help ensure that you stay on the right path. For instance, a business plan may require you to consider what the primary purpose of your business is, or the good or service you intend to provide, who your potential customers are, and how you intend to reach them in an effective and efficient manner. A business plan also allows you to make an honest evaluation of the current status of your business and what you will need to do to get to where you would like to be. This includes taking the time to compile your business balance sheet, analyze existing income and expenses, and determine anticipated financial needs.

Creating a detailed business plan can help business owners acquire outside funding .

In addition, a business plan serves as a marketing tool for new business owners who are attempting to gain financial backing, operational support, or mentoring for their new business. The financial aspects of a business plan lets potential funders or lenders analyze your current income streams and the likelihood of repayment, while the detailed explanation of your business objectives and operational plans helps to convince interested parties that you have taken the time to carefully plan your business endeavors and are invested in the success of your company.

How to Write a Business Plan

There is no one specific way to write a business plan. However, there are key components that most business plans should include, and these are good starting points when working on your own plan. It may also be worth reaching out to an experienced corporate attorney to help you review and revise your business plan before presenting it to others in the business community.

Business plans typically start with a summary of the business and its objectives, and then they describe the operations of the business, the good or service it will be providing, and potential income streams in more detail. Business plans should also include a detailed description of the proposed management structure of the business, including officers or directors and possibly the envisioned composition of the board. Additionally, business plans typically include extensive financial documentation, such as balance sheets, income projections or growth model projections, any pending loan applications, tax returns of the entity, and copies of any relevant legal agreements. If the business has already been in operation for some time, the business plan may also include financial records for the months of operation.

  • Summarize the business and its objectives
  • Outline how the business is organized and managed
  • Describe what the business sells
  • Identify potential income streams
  • Include financial information, such as balance sheets and projections

Using Your Business Plan

Once you have completed a business plan that you are happy with, you will find that you will often continue to refer to your plan even months or years after it was initially completed. In the initial stages, you can use your business plan to attract investors, partners, board members, or other advisors who are interested in the model you have proposed and would like to contribute to its success. As your business develops, you can continue to refer to the plan to guide you in business decisions, as well as to track timelines or certain goals that you hoped to meet. Even after your business is well-developed, returning to your business plan can help guide your yearly planning for your company, allowing you to modify your goals as they are achieved.

Last reviewed October 2023

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How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step

Rosalie Murphy

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

What is a business plan?

1. write an executive summary, 2. describe your company, 3. state your business goals, 4. describe your products and services, 5. do your market research, 6. outline your marketing and sales plan, 7. perform a business financial analysis, 8. make financial projections, 9. summarize how your company operates, 10. add any additional information to an appendix, business plan tips and resources.

A business plan outlines your business’s financial goals and explains how you’ll achieve them over the next three to five years. Here’s a step-by-step guide to writing a business plan that will offer a strong, detailed road map for your business.



A business plan is a document that explains what your business does, how it makes money and who its customers are. Internally, writing a business plan should help you clarify your vision and organize your operations. Externally, you can share it with potential lenders and investors to show them you’re on the right track.

Business plans are living documents; it’s OK for them to change over time. Startups may update their business plans often as they figure out who their customers are and what products and services fit them best. Mature companies might only revisit their business plan every few years. Regardless of your business’s age, brush up this document before you apply for a business loan .

» Need help writing? Learn about the best business plan software .

This is your elevator pitch. It should include a mission statement, a brief description of the products or services your business offers and a broad summary of your financial growth plans.

Though the executive summary is the first thing your investors will read, it can be easier to write it last. That way, you can highlight information you’ve identified while writing other sections that go into more detail.

» MORE: How to write an executive summary in 6 steps

Next up is your company description. This should contain basic information like:

Your business’s registered name.

Address of your business location .

Names of key people in the business. Make sure to highlight unique skills or technical expertise among members of your team.

Your company description should also define your business structure — such as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation — and include the percent ownership that each owner has and the extent of each owner’s involvement in the company.

Lastly, write a little about the history of your company and the nature of your business now. This prepares the reader to learn about your goals in the next section.

» MORE: How to write a company overview for a business plan

business plan legal name

The third part of a business plan is an objective statement. This section spells out what you’d like to accomplish, both in the near term and over the coming years.

If you’re looking for a business loan or outside investment, you can use this section to explain how the financing will help your business grow and how you plan to achieve those growth targets. The key is to provide a clear explanation of the opportunity your business presents to the lender.

For example, if your business is launching a second product line, you might explain how the loan will help your company launch that new product and how much you think sales will increase over the next three years as a result.

» MORE: How to write a successful business plan for a loan

In this section, go into detail about the products or services you offer or plan to offer.

You should include the following:

An explanation of how your product or service works.

The pricing model for your product or service.

The typical customers you serve.

Your supply chain and order fulfillment strategy.

You can also discuss current or pending trademarks and patents associated with your product or service.

Lenders and investors will want to know what sets your product apart from your competition. In your market analysis section , explain who your competitors are. Discuss what they do well, and point out what you can do better. If you’re serving a different or underserved market, explain that.

Here, you can address how you plan to persuade customers to buy your products or services, or how you will develop customer loyalty that will lead to repeat business.

Include details about your sales and distribution strategies, including the costs involved in selling each product .

» MORE: R e a d our complete guide to small business marketing

If you’re a startup, you may not have much information on your business financials yet. However, if you’re an existing business, you’ll want to include income or profit-and-loss statements, a balance sheet that lists your assets and debts, and a cash flow statement that shows how cash comes into and goes out of the company.

Accounting software may be able to generate these reports for you. It may also help you calculate metrics such as:

Net profit margin: the percentage of revenue you keep as net income.

Current ratio: the measurement of your liquidity and ability to repay debts.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: a measurement of how frequently you collect on receivables per year.

This is a great place to include charts and graphs that make it easy for those reading your plan to understand the financial health of your business.

This is a critical part of your business plan if you’re seeking financing or investors. It outlines how your business will generate enough profit to repay the loan or how you will earn a decent return for investors.

Here, you’ll provide your business’s monthly or quarterly sales, expenses and profit estimates over at least a three-year period — with the future numbers assuming you’ve obtained a new loan.

Accuracy is key, so carefully analyze your past financial statements before giving projections. Your goals may be aggressive, but they should also be realistic.

NerdWallet’s picks for setting up your business finances:

The best business checking accounts .

The best business credit cards .

The best accounting software .

Before the end of your business plan, summarize how your business is structured and outline each team’s responsibilities. This will help your readers understand who performs each of the functions you’ve described above — making and selling your products or services — and how much each of those functions cost.

If any of your employees have exceptional skills, you may want to include their resumes to help explain the competitive advantage they give you.

Finally, attach any supporting information or additional materials that you couldn’t fit in elsewhere. That might include:

Licenses and permits.

Equipment leases.

Bank statements.

Details of your personal and business credit history, if you’re seeking financing.

If the appendix is long, you may want to consider adding a table of contents at the beginning of this section.

How much do you need?

with Fundera by NerdWallet

We’ll start with a brief questionnaire to better understand the unique needs of your business.

Once we uncover your personalized matches, our team will consult you on the process moving forward.

Here are some tips to write a detailed, convincing business plan:

Avoid over-optimism: If you’re applying for a business bank loan or professional investment, someone will be reading your business plan closely. Providing unreasonable sales estimates can hurt your chances of approval.

Proofread: Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors can jump off the page and turn off lenders and prospective investors. If writing and editing aren't your strong suit, you may want to hire a professional business plan writer, copy editor or proofreader.

Use free resources: SCORE is a nonprofit association that offers a large network of volunteer business mentors and experts who can help you write or edit your business plan. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Development Centers , which provide free business consulting and help with business plan development, can also be a resource.

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Types of Business Structures Explained

Kody Wirth

13 min. read

Updated January 5, 2024

The choice you make about what type of business structure is appropriate for your company will affect how much you pay in taxes, the level of risk or liability to your personal assets (your house, your savings), and even your ability to raise money from angel investors or venture capitalists.

So, the structure you choose is significant.

This guide will explain the basics of common business structures, but we can’t tell you exactly which structure you should choose—if you need that kind of advice, you should consult a lawyer or an accountant.

  • Sole proprietorship

The simplest business structure is the sole proprietorship. If you don’t create a separate legal entity, your business is a sole proprietorship. 

The main advantage of the sole proprietorship is that it’s relatively simple and inexpensive. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t create a legal separation between you and your personal assets and business assets. If you’re sued or your business folds—your personal assets are fair game for creditors and in terms of legal liability.

Who is a sole proprietorship for?

A sole proprietorship is ideal for self-employed individuals like personal trainers offering individual coaching or artists selling unique items on platforms like Etsy.

Key considerations

  • Cost-effective setup: The primary expense is usually the DBA (“doing business as”) registration. Some states may require public notice, like a newspaper ad. Generally, the total cost is below $100.
  • Simplified taxation: Sole proprietorships are “pass-through” tax entities. Profits and losses are reported directly on the owner’s taxes, necessitating only a few additional tax forms if you’re the sole worker.
  • Hiring employees is possible: Being a “sole” proprietor doesn’t restrict hiring. If you employ others, tax processes become slightly more intricate.
  • Limited ways to raise funding: You can’t sell company stock, limiting fundraising avenues.
  • Potential loan difficulties: Banks might hesitate to grant loans to sole proprietorships due to perceived credibility issues.
  • Full personal liability: If the business faces debt or legal issues, your personal assets, including your home, car, and savings, are vulnerable.

Dig deeper:

Should you register as a sole proprietorship?

Explore the pros and cons of incorporating as a sole proprietorship.

How sole proprietorships are taxed

Understand how registering as a sole proprietor impacts your taxes.

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  • Partnerships

Still a relatively simple business structure, a partnership involves two or more individuals sharing ownership of their new business. They’ll contribute to the business in some way and share in profits and losses.

Partnerships are harder to describe because they change so much. State laws govern them, but the Uniform Partnership Act has become the law in most states. That act, however, mainly sets the specific partnership agreement as the real legal core of the partnership so that the legal details can vary widely.

Usually, the income or loss from partnerships passes through to the partners without any partnership tax. The agreements can define different levels of risk, which is why you’ll read about some partnerships with general and limited partners, with different levels of risk for each. Your partnership agreement should clearly define what happens if a partner withdraws, buy and sell arrangements for partners and liquidation arrangements if necessary.

What are the types of partnerships?

  • General partnership: Assumes equal involvement of all parties in profits, liabilities, and duties. Any intentional imbalance should be specified in the partnership agreement.
  • Limited partnership: Suited for partners in an investor role with limited involvement in daily operations. This structure is more complex and less common.
  • Joint venture: Designed for a single project or a limited duration, operating similarly to a general partnership.

Who is a partnership for?

A partnership is similar to an extended sole proprietorship and is ideal for two or more individuals wanting to start a business jointly. 

To make the partnership more effective, you and your partners should have skillsets, connections, or other unique benefits that complement each other. 

For example, a personal trainer and nutritionist building an online fitness program. One entrepreneur has experience building an exercise regiment with clients. The other understands how to create balanced meal and supplement recommendations. 

They have unique but complementary knowledge that, when combined, creates a more valuable product/service.

  • Partnership agreement: While not mandatory, it’s advisable to draft a partnership agreement, ideally reviewed by legal counsel, to clarify roles and responsibilities, ownership, and what will happen if a partner wants to leave the partnership.
  • Tax implications: Partnerships are “pass-through” entities, meaning profits and losses are directly passed to the partners. Refer to the IRS for partnership tax details.
  • Additional costs: Since it’s a good idea to have a lawyer look over your partnership agreement, don’t forget to factor in this added expense.
  • Trust in partnership: Ensure your partner is trustworthy, as partners share responsibility for business decisions and debts. A well-drafted partnership agreement can prevent future conflicts.

How to create a business partnership agreement

Even if you’re not in an official partnership, you should consider drafting a partnership agreement. Doing so will clearly define rights and responsibilities and help you amicably resolve any disputes.

How partnerships are taxed

Understand how registering as a partnership impacts your taxes.

Plan for changes with a buy-sell agreement

What will you do if you or your partner quits, sells their portion of the business, or passes away?

How to find the right business partner

A partnership is more than a legal structure. It’s a relationship between entrepreneurs who share a passion for an idea and bring unique skill sets. So, how do you find the right person to make your partnership thrive?…

Traits to look for in a business partner

What makes a good business partner? If you’re considering someone with the following traits, you likely have a good fit.

How many partners should you have?

What’s the ideal number of business partners? The right mix of people and skillsets can lead to tremendous business growth. But too many may lead to disaster.

What to do when your business partner is your life partner

Should your significant other be your business partner? Learn your legal options and how to find the right ownership fit for your business and relationship.

  • Limited liability company

Should your business fall on hard times, does the idea of being held personally responsible for all losses sound intimidating?

It’s understandable—plenty of would-be entrepreneurs shudder at the thought of the bank seizing their personal assets should the business go south.

A limited liability corporation (or LLC) is, in some ways, the best of both worlds. It allows for the flexibility of a partnership or sole proprietorship but, as the name suggests, limits the liability of those involved, similar to a corporation. An LLC is usually a lot like an S corporation. It offers a combination of some limitations on legal liability and some favorable tax treatment for profits and transfer of assets.

Who is a limited liability corporation for?

An LLC is ideal for those wary of personal liability in business. If you possess significant personal assets or operate in a lawsuit-prone industry—an LLC safeguards your personal finances. 

  • Complexity: While offering more protection, an LLC is harder to establish than a sole proprietorship or partnership.
  • Tax benefits: LLCs maintain “pass-through” tax status, meaning you’re taxed only on your profit share, which is reported on personal taxes. 
  • Single-member LLCs: Most states allow single-person LLCs, making it a potential alternative to sole proprietorships.

How to form a limited liability company

Interested in forming an LLC? Here are the steps you’ll need to take.

How to create an LLC operating agreement

Set the rules for how your LLC will operate, including the management structure, individual responsibilities, ownership percentage, and other important information.

LLC costs and fees explained

Make sure you’re aware of all the costs and fees associated with forming an LLC.

How LLCs are taxed

Understand how registering as an LLC impacts your taxes.

  • Corporations

Shareholders, a more complex legal structure, and more intricate tax requirements are all characteristics of a corporation.

Corporations are either the standard C corporation, the small business S corporation, or the benefit corporation or B corp. The C corporation is the classic legal entity of the vast majority of successful companies in the United States.

Corporations can switch from C to S and back again, but not often. The IRS has strict rules for when and how those switches are made. You’ll almost always want to have your CPA, and in some cases, your attorney, guide you through the legal requirements for switching.

Who is a corporation for?

Corporations are best suited for larger, established businesses with multiple employees, plans for rapid scaling, or intentions to trade or attract significant external investments publicly. A corporation might not be the right choice if you’re a small business owner or work with a small team.

What are the types of corporations?

C corporation.

What we typically think of when we refer to corporations, where all shareholders combine funds and are then given stock in the newly formed business. 

A C corp is a separate tax entity, meaning your business can deduct taxes. It also means that earnings can be taxed twice, as they are concerning your business and your personal taxes if you take income as dividends. However, good tax planning can often minimize the impact of double taxation.

Most lawyers would agree (but verify this with your lawyer who is familiar with your unique business) that the C corporation is the structure that provides the best shielding from personal liability for owners, and provides the best non-tax benefits to owners. Many companies with ambitions of raising major investment capital and eventually going public consider the C corporation.

S corporation

An S corp is similar to a traditional C corporation, with one major difference: Profits and losses can be “passed through” to your personal tax return without being taxed separately first.

In practical terms, the owners can take their profits home without first paying the corporation’s separate tax on profits. In most states, an S corporation is owned by a limited number of private owners (25 is a common maximum), and only individuals (not corporations) can hold stock in S corporations.

To become an S corp, you must first set your business up as a corporation within your state and then request S corp status. The IRS instructions for Form 2553 (which you’ll need to file to become an S corp) can help you determine if you qualify.

B corporation

Does your company have a dedicated social mission, a good cause built into its foundation that you’d like to continue furthering as your company grows? If so, you might consider becoming a B corporation, which stands for “benefit corporation.” 

However, the name is a bit misleading; a B corp isn’t an entirely different structure than a regular C corporation. It’s a C corp vetted and approved for B corp status. Some states give tax breaks to B corps, and it’s a great way to stand behind a cause.

So, why would you choose a B corp over a nonprofit? The biggest difference is in ownership—with a nonprofit, no owners or shareholders exist. A B corp, which is still a type of corporation, still has shareholders who own the company. So, a B corp has a social mission but is still a for-profit company (as opposed to a nonprofit) with an end goal of returning profits to the shareholders.

  • Liability: Corporations offer the most protection for personal assets.
  • Capital raising: The ability to sell stock enhances investment potential.
  • Taxation: Corporate taxes are separate (except for S corps), but the structure can lead to double taxation, especially for C corporations.
  • Complexity: Establishing a corporation is more intricate than other business structures, requiring more paperwork and formalities.

How to form a corporation

Follow these ten steps to incorporate as a C, S, or B corporation.

How are corporations taxed?

Understand how registering as a corporation impacts your taxes.

S corporation basics

Should you choose an S corp as the legal structure for your business? Learn the basics and what alternatives are available.

B corporation basics

Should you choose a B corp as the legal structure for your business? Check out this detailed overview of how this business entity functions and the pros and cons you’ll contend with.

A nonprofit is a “not-for-profit” business structure, meaning the business does not exist to generate revenue for shareholders, but rather funnel business revenue into a social mission, cause, or purpose.

Who is a nonprofit for?

Nonprofits cater to those with missions centered on charitable, educational, scientific, or religious purposes. Examples include homeless shelters, conservation groups, arts centers, and educational institutions.

What’s the difference between a nonprofit and a cooperative?

Like a nonprofit, a cooperative is a business with a social mission that doesn’t divide income between shareholders but toward a cause or purpose. However, while some states view nonprofits and cooperatives as the same, a cooperative differs because the members own it, referred to as “user-owners.”

If you plan on organizing your business to be democratically owned, looking into the cooperative business structure might be a good idea to look into the cooperative business structure .

  • Complex setup: Establishing a nonprofit requires steps similar to forming a corporation, including filing articles of incorporation, creating bylaws, and organizing board meetings.
  • Fundraising will be your main priority: Nonprofits generally rely on fundraising and grants to keep a flow of income into their business.

What is a nonprofit corporation and how to start one

Learn the basics of setting up a nonprofit corporation.

How to earn income as a nonprofit corporation

Learn how related and unrelated business activities can generate revenue for a nonprofit corporation.

  • Making your business legally compliant

Choosing a business structure is the first legal step you’ll take. Your choice will impact your taxes, fundraising, and personal liability. 

Tim Berry, founder of Palo Alto Software (maker of Bplans) reminds small business and startup founders that choosing a business entity or structure is something to take seriously. He says:

“Make sure you know which legal steps you must take to be in business. I’m not an attorney, and I don’t give legal advice. I strongly recommend working with an attorney to review the details of your company’s legal establishment and licensing. The trade-offs involved in incorporation versus partnership versus other structures are significant. Small problems developed at the early stages of a new business can become horrendous problems later on. In this regard, the cost of simple legal advice is almost always worth it. Don’t skimp on legal costs.”

TLDR: Take time, carefully weigh your options, and consult a legal professional.

Once you’ve chosen, check off the remaining legal requirements to start a business. While you can complete most of these in any order, here are a few suggestions.

  • Apply for a federal and state tax ID
  • Obtain licenses and permits
  • Register your business name

See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan

Content Author: Kody Wirth

Kody Wirth is a content writer and SEO specialist for Palo Alto Software—the creator's of Bplans and LivePlan. He has 3+ years experience covering small business topics and runs a part-time content writing service in his spare time.

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How To Write the Company Summary in a Business Plan

Company Overviews Show How the Pieces of a Business Work

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What To Include in Your Company Summary

Getting started on your company summary, examples of a company summary, tips for writing a company summary, frequently asked questions (faqs).

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

The company summary in a business plan —also known as the company description or overview—is a high-level look at what you are as a company and how all the elements of the business fit together.

An effective company summary should give readers, such as potential investors, a quick and easy way to understand your business, its products and services, its mission and goals, how it meets the needs of its target market, and how it stands out from competitors.

Before you begin writing your company summary, remember to stick to the big picture. Other sections of your business plan will provide the specific details of your business. The summary synthesizes all of that information into one page.

Key Takeaways

  • The company summary in a business plan provides an overview containing a description of your company at a high level.
  • A company summary might include your mission statement, goals, target market, products, and services, as well as how it stands out from competitors.
  • The company summary can also be customized for a specific objective or audience, such as to secure financing from investors or banks.

The company summary section of a business plan should include:

  • Business name
  • Legal structure (i.e., sole proprietorship ,  LLC ,  S Corporation , or  partnership )
  • Management team
  • Mission statement
  • Company history (when it started and important milestones)
  • Description of products and services and how they meet the needs of the marketplace
  • Target market (who will buy your product or services)
  • Competitive advantage (what sets you apart in the marketplace to allow you to succeed)
  • Objectives and goals (plans for growth)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website has a lot of information available if you've never written a business plan before. The SBA provides examples of business plans for different types of companies.

Before you begin, you should decide whether you want to go with a traditional business plan format or a lean startup format. The traditional format is appropriate if you want to have a comprehensive, detail-oriented plan or if you are requesting financing. The lean startup format is best for those who have a relatively simple business and want to start it quickly or as a starting point for those who plan to refine and change the plan regularly.

No matter which type of business plan you choose, you'll need to include a company summary.

Although there are many blueprints for writing a company summary, below are a couple of examples to get you started.

Consulting Firm

You can opt for a concise opening paragraph such as this one:

XYZ Consulting is a new company that provides expertise in search marketing solutions for businesses worldwide, including website promotion, online advertising, and search engine optimization techniques to improve its clients' positioning in search engines. We cater to the higher education market, including colleges, universities, and professional educational institutions.

Several elements of the company summary are covered here, including the name (XYZ Consulting), history (new company), description of services (web promotion, SEO, advertising) and why it's needed (improve positioning in search engines), and the target market (higher education).

Starbucks Coffee Company Overview

Starbucks breaks down the company overview on their website into the following sections:

"Our Heritage"

Here the company describes how long the company has been in business, citing its roots, the founder, Howard Schultz, and how he was inspired to open the first Starbucks in Seattle after visiting Italy. It briefly mentions the growth of millions of customers and how the company's heritage remains important to its long-term success.

"Coffee & Craft"

The overview describes the high-quality products and services being offered and why they stand out from the competition by describing the detailed process of choosing and growing coffee beans. You'll notice they don't suggest their product is a low-cost product but instead provide a high level of "experiences to savor."

"Our Partners"

Starbucks describes its employees as partners that work together in an inclusive manner to achieve success. It highlights how they are at the center of the experience.

"Pursuit of Doing Good"

The company describes its values and how it gives back to the community.

Tesla Inc. Business Overview

Below are excerpts of the business overview pages from the annual 10-K filing on Dec. 31, 2021, for Tesla Inc.

"We design, develop, manufacture, sell and lease high-performance fully electric vehicles and energy generation and storage systems, and offer services related to our products. We generally sell our products directly to customers, including through our website and retail locations.
We also continue to grow our customer-facing infrastructure through a global network of vehicle service centers, mobile service technicians, body shops, supercharger stations and destination chargers to accelerate the widespread adoption of our products.
We emphasize performance, attractive styling and the safety of our users and workforce in the design and manufacture of our products and are continuing to develop full self-driving technology for improved safety.
Our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, engineering expertise, vertically integrated business model and focus on user experience differentiate us from other companies."


Tesla highlights the competitive automotive market and how the company differentiates itself from the larger, more established competitors.

"The worldwide automotive market is highly competitive and we expect it will become even more competitive in the future as we introduce additional vehicles in a broader cross-section of the passenger and commercial vehicle market and expand our vehicles’ capabilities. We believe that our vehicles compete in the market both based on their traditional segment classification as well as based on their propulsion technology.
Competing products typically include internal combustion vehicles from more established automobile manufacturers; however, many established and new automobile manufacturers have entered or have announced plans to enter the market for electric and other alternative fuel vehicles."

Intellectual Property

The company highlights its intellectual property, including trademarks and patents.

"We place a strong emphasis on our innovative approach and proprietary designs which bring intrinsic value and uniqueness to our product portfolio. As part of our business, we seek to protect the underlying intellectual property rights of these innovations and designs such as with respect to patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets and other measures, including through employee and third-party nondisclosure agreements and other contractual arrangements."

Mission Statement

The company highlights its mission statement and its sustainability goals using environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and human capital resources.

"The very purpose of Tesla's existence is to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy. We believe the world cannot reduce carbon emissions without addressing both energy generation and consumption, and we are designing and manufacturing a complete energy and transportation ecosystem to achieve this goal. As we expand, we are building each new factory to be more efficient and sustainably designed than the previous one, including with respect to waste reduction and water usage, and we are focused on reducing the carbon footprint of our supply chain."

There are other items you can include in your company summary to expand on the areas that you'd like people to focus on, depending on your objective.

You might provide more information about the company's location, legal structure, and management team. You can also include more information about the:

  • Company's history, such as a family business that's been in operation for multiple generations
  • Business objectives, including short-term and long-term goals
  • Business strengths, highlighting anything that might give your company a competitive advantage in the field

You can also customize the summary if you have a specific objective or a targeted audience. For example, if the goal of your business plan is to secure funding, you might focus on areas that appeal to investors and lending institutions, including:

  • Why you're the best person to manage the business
  • Your experience in your field, as well as the total years of experience of your management team
  • Expertise or special talents of your team, including training, licenses, certifications
  • How you plan to make the business a success
  • Financial information, such as a high-level discussion of your track record of revenue growth and the financial opportunities that can be realized as a result of securing financing

You may also want to address any areas of perceived weakness by explaining how you'll overcome them or compensate.

How do you write a company overview?

You might provide a description of the company, its location, legal structure, and management team. You can also highlight the company's business objectives, goals, and strengths. You can also customize the summary to a specific audience, such as a bank or lender, focusing on your competitive advantages and highlights of recent financial success.

What should an organizational overview include?

Some of the discussion points to include in a company overview might be:

  • Company name and location
  • Legal structure such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or partnership
  • Mission statement and management team
  • Description of your products and services and how they are needed
  • Target market or who are your customers
  • Competitive advantage or what makes your company different

The Clute Institute. " Using Business Plans for Teaching Entrepreneurship ," Page 734.

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

Starbucks Coffee Company. " Our Company ."

United States Securities and Exchange Commission. " Form 10-K, Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(D) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2021, Tesla, Inc., " Pages 3-12.

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What Is a Business Plan?

Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

business plan legal name

A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.

Key Takeaways

  • A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
  • Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
  • For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
  • There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.

Investopedia / Ryan Oakley

Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.

Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."

Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.

There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.

Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.

While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.

While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.

Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.

The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.

These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:

  • Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
  • Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
  • Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
  • Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
  • Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.

The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.

2 Types of Business Plans

Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.

  • Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
  • Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.

Why Do Business Plans Fail?

A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.

How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.

What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?

The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.

Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.

A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.

Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."

U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."

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Legal Form of Organization in Business Plan

The legal form of organization in business plan is used to decide how the company will function, how roles will be assigned and how relationships will work. 3 min read updated on February 01, 2023

The legal form of organization in business plan is used to decide how the organization will function, how roles will be arranged and assigned, and how relationships will work. These organizational steps should take place at the beginning of the business formation.

Starting a Business

The first step when beginning a business is to name the business. The name must be unique and not in use by another existing entity. The next step is to decide on the organization type your business will use. Each business entity has specific requirements on how they are run including how income is reported. The business types include:

  • Sole proprietorship.
  • Partnership.
  • Limited Liability Company.
  • Limited Liability Partnership.
  • Corporation.
  • S Corporation.
  • Tax-exempt organization.

Each type has advantages and disadvantages that should be reviewed before making a final decision. However, the business type you choose isn't permanent. As the needs of your business change, the business entity type can be changed. Examples include:

  • Changing a sole proprietorship to a partnership due to growth.
  • Switching to a corporation to establish protection that comes with limited liability.

Limited Liability is attractive to business owners because it protects personal assets from any debts or obligations incurred by the corporation.

Business Type Requirements

A major component of selecting a business type is what is required to be legal and the tax implications.

  • Applications to the state government are not required.
  • Dependent on the state, registering the business may be required with the state and/or country.
  • A business license may be required based on the type of business and state requirements.
  • The IRS views all business activity as personal. When filing, personal and business income are seen as the same thing.
  • A sole proprietorship is personally responsible for all aspects of the business. If the business is sold, it can impact any personal assets if you are found liable.
  • In a general partnership, two or more sole proprietors are seen by the IRS as having equal responsibility.
  • Any profit and loss distribution is determined by the partnership agreement and is then passed to the individual partners.
  • Profit and loss distribution does not have to match the percentage of ownership.
  • The partnership is not subject to income or franchise tax.
  • The structure and tax implications are similar to a general partnership, but a limited partnership ( silent partner ) allows for ownership without the requirement of being actively involved in how the business is managed.
  • Business liabilities are limited to the amount invested by the partner.
  • Outside investors can be partners without taking on any liabilities.
  • Personal liability protection is provided without having to meet the administrative and governance procedures.
  • The Articles of Organization determine the ownership percentages, distribution of profit and losses, and voting rights. In corporations, this is determined by stock ownership.
  • Most LLCs use the pass-through method of taxation. This means that taxes aren't paid by the LLC, but by at the personal tax level of the owners. The personal rate is lower than the corporate tax rate. When the LLC files taxes, no money is sent and an owners report is included to show the owners will pay the tax instead.
  • Based on the state, the LLC is subject to a franchise tax .
  • A corporation can be formed as for-profit or nonprofit.
  • Corporations provide a shield from liabilities. This protection is only removed if the owners or board members have been found to be illegally running a corporation and have been breaking federal and/or state laws.
  • Corporations can sell stock in the business.
  • A Board of Directors is used to manage corporate policies and strategies. This is for both for-profit and nonprofit.
  • Corporations continue to exist even in the event of the owner's death, or if owners leave.

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How to write an effective business plan in 11 steps (with workbook)

February 02, 2023 | 14 minute read

Writing a business plan is a powerful way to position your small business for success as you set out to meet your goals. Landmark studies suggest that business founders who write one are 16% more likely to build viable businesses than those who don’t and that entrepreneurs focused on high growth are 7% more likely to have written a business plan. 1 Even better, other research shows that owners who complete business plans are twice as likely to grow their business successfully or obtain capital compared with those who don’t. 2

The best time to write a business plan is typically after you have vetted and researched your business idea. (See How to start a business in 15 steps. ) If conditions change later, you can rewrite the plan, much like how your GPS reroutes you if there is traffic ahead. When you update your plan regularly, everyone on your team, including outside stakeholders such as investors, will know where you are headed.

What is a business plan?

Typically 15-20 pages long, a business plan is a document that explains what your business does, what you want to achieve in the business and the strategy you plan to use to get there. It details the opportunities you are going after, what resources you will need to achieve your goals and how you will define success.

Why are business plans important?

Business plans help you think through barriers and discover opportunities you may have recognized subconsciously but have not yet articulated. A business plan can also help you to attract potential lenders, investors and partners by providing them with evidence that your business has all of the ingredients necessary for success.

What questions should a business plan answer?

Your business plan should explain how your business will grow and succeed. A great plan will provide detailed answers to questions that a banker or investor will have before putting money into the business, such as:

  • What products or services do you provide?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • What are the benefits of your product and service for customers?
  • How much will you charge?
  • What is the size of the market?
  • What are your marketing plans?
  • How much competition does the business face in penetrating that market?
  • How much experience does the management team have in running businesses like it?
  • How do you plan to measure success?
  • What do you expect the business’s revenue, costs and profit to be for the first few years?
  • How much will it cost to achieve the goals stated in the business plan?
  • What is the long-term growth potential of the business? Is the business scalable?
  • How will you enable investors to reap the rewards of backing the business? Do you plan to sell the business to a bigger company eventually or take it public as your “exit strategy”?

How to write a business plan in 11 steps

This step-by-step outline will make it easier to write an effective business plan, even if you’re managing the day-to-day demands of starting a new business. Creating a table of contents that lists key sections of the plan with page numbers will make it easy for readers to flip to the sections that interest them most.

  • Use our editable workbook to capture notes and organize your thoughts as you review these critical steps. Note: To avoid losing your work, please remember to save this PDF to your desktop before you begin.

1. Executive summary

The executive summary is your opportunity to make a great first impression on investors and bankers. It should be just as engaging as the enthusiastic elevator pitch you might give if you bumped into a potential backer in an elevator.

In three to five paragraphs, you’ll want to explain what your business does, why it will succeed and where it will be in five years. The executive summary should include short descriptions of the following:

  • Business concept. What will your business do?
  • Goals and vision. What do you expect the business to achieve, both financially and for other key stakeholders, such as the community?
  • Product or service. What does your product or service do — and how is it different from those of competitors?
  • Target market. Who do you expect to buy your product or service?
  • Marketing strategy. How will you tell people about your product or service?
  • Current revenue and profits. If your business is pre-revenue, offer sales projections.
  • Projected revenue and profits. Provide a realistic look at the next year, as well as the next three years, ideally.
  • Financial resources needed. How much money do you need to borrow or raise to fund your plan?
  • Management team. Who are the company’s leaders and what relevant experience will they contribute?

2. Business overview

Here is where you provide a brief history of the business and describe the product(s) or service(s) it offers. Make sure you describe the problem you are attempting to solve, for whom you will solve it (your customers) and how you will solve it. Be sure to describe your business model (such as direct-to-consumer sales through an online store) so readers can envision how you will make sales. Also mention your business structure (such as a sole proprietorship , general partnership, limited partnership or corporation) and why it is advantageous for the business. And be sure to provide context on the state of your industry and where your business will fit into it.

3. Business goals and vision

Explain what you hope to achieve in the business (your vision) as well as its mission and value proposition. Most founders judge success by the size to which they grow the business using measures such as revenue or number of employees. Your goals may not be solely financial. You may also wish to provide jobs or solve a societal problem. If that’s the case, mention those goals as well.

If you are seeking outside funding, explain why you need the money, how you will put it to work to grow the business and how you expect to achieve the goals you have set for the business. Also explain your exit strategy—that is, how you would enable investors to cash out, whether that means selling the business or taking it public.

4. Management and organization

Many investors say they bet on the team behind a business more than the business idea, trusting that talented and experienced people will be capable of bringing sound business concepts to life. With that in mind, make sure to provide short bios of the key members of your management team (including yourself) that emphasize the relevant experience each individual brings, along with their special talents and industry recognition. Many business plans include headshots of the management team with the bios.

Also describe more about how your organization will be structured. Your company may be a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation in one or more states.

If you will need to hire people for specific roles, this is the place to mention those plans. And if you will rely on outside consultants for certain roles — such as an outsourced CFO — be sure to make a note of it here. Outside backers want to know if you’ve anticipated the staffing you need.

5. Service or product line

A business will only succeed if it sells something people want or need to buy. As you describe the products or services you will offer, make sure to explain what benefits they will provide to your target customers, how they will differ from competing offerings and what the buying cycle will likely be so it is clear that you can actually sell what you are offering. If you have plans to protect your intellectual property through a copyright or patent filing, be sure to mention that. Also explain any research and development work that is underway to show investors the potential for additional revenue streams.

6. Market/industry analysis

Anyone interested in providing financial backing to your business will want to know how big your company can potentially grow so they have an idea of what kind of returns they can expect. In this section, you’ll be able to convey that by explaining to whom you will be selling and how much opportunity there is to reach them. Key details to include are market size; a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis ; a competitive analysis; and customer segmentation. Make it clear how you developed any projections you’ve made by citing interviews or research.

Also describe the current state of the industry. Where is there room for improvement? Are most companies using antiquated processes and technology? If your business is a local one, what is the market in your area like? Do most of the restaurants where you plan to open your café serve mediocre food? What will you do better?

In this section, also list competitors, including their names, websites and social media handles. Describe each source of competition and how your business will address it.

7. Sales and marketing

Explain how you will spread the word to potential customers about what you sell. Will you be using paid online search advertising, social media promotions, traditional direct mail, print advertising in local publications, sponsorship of a local radio or TV show, your own YouTube content or some other method entirely? List all of the methods you will use.

Make sure readers know exactly what the path to a sale will be and why that approach will resonate with customers in your ideal target markets as well as existing customer segments. If you have already begun using the methods you’ve outlined, include data on the results so readers know whether they have been effective.

8. Financials

In a new business, you may not have any past financial data or financial statements to include, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to share. Preparing a budget and financial plan will help show investors or bankers that you have developed a clear understanding of the financial aspects of running your business. (The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has prepared a guide you can use; SCORE , a nonprofit organization that partners with the SBA, offers a financial projections template to help you look ahead.) For an existing business, you will want to include income statements, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets, ideally going back three years.

Make a list of the specific steps you plan to take to achieve the financial results you have outlined. The steps are generally the most detailed for the first year, given that you may need to revise your plan later as you gather feedback from the marketplace.

Include interactive spreadsheets that contain a detailed financial analysis showing how much it costs your business to produce the goods and services you provide, the profits you will generate, any planned investments and the taxes you will pay. See our startup costs calculator to get started.

9. Financial projections

Creating a detailed sales forecast can help you get outside backers excited about supporting you. A sales forecast is typically a table or simple line graph that shows the projected sales of the company over time with monthly or quarterly details for the next 12 months and a broader projection as much as five years into the future. If you haven’t yet launched the company, turn to your market research to develop estimates. For more information, see “ How to create a sales forecast for your small business. ”

10. Funding request

If you are seeking outside financing such as a loan or equity investment, your potential backers will want to know how much money you need and how you will spend it. Describe the amount you are trying to raise, how you arrived at that number and what type of funding you are seeking (such as debt, equity or a combination of both). If you are contributing some of your own funds, it is worth noting this, as it shows that you have skin in the game.

11. Appendix

This should include any information and supporting documents that will help investors and bankers gain a greater understanding of the potential of your business. Depending on your industry, you might include local permits, licenses, deeds and other legal documents; professional certifications and licenses; media clips; information on patents and other intellectual property; key customer contracts and purchase orders; and other relevant documents.

Some business owners find it helpful to develop a list of key concepts, such as the names of the company’s products and industry terms. This can be helpful if you do business in an industry that may not be familiar to the readers of the business plan.

Tips for creating an effective business plan

Use clear, simple language. It’ll be easier to win people over if your plan is easy to read. Steer clear of industry jargon, and if you must use any phrases the average adult won’t know, be sure to define them.

Emphasize what makes your business unique. Investors and bankers want to know how you will solve a problem or gap in the marketplace differently from anyone else. Make sure you’re conveying your differentiating factors.

Nail the details. An ideal business plan will be detailed and accurate. Make sure that any financial projections you make are realistic and grounded in solid market research. (If you need help in making your calculations, you can get free advice at SCORE.) Seasoned bankers and investors will quickly spot numbers that are overly optimistic.

Take time to polish it. Your final version of the plan should be neat and professional with an attractive layout and copy that has been carefully proofread.

Include professional photos. High-quality shots of your product or place of business can help make it clear why your business stands out.

Updating an existing business plan

Some business owners in rapidly growing businesses update their business plan quarterly. Others do so every six months or every year. When you update your plan make sure you consider these three things:

  • Are your goals still current? As you’ve tested your concept, your goals may have changed. The plan should reflect this.
  • Have you revised any strategies in response to feedback from the marketplace? You may have found that your offerings resonated with a different customer segment than you expected or that your advertising plan didn’t work and you need to try a different approach. Given that investors will want to see a marketing and advertising plan that works, keeping this section current will ensure you are always ready to meet with one who shows interest.
  • Have your staffing needs changed? If you set ambitious goals, you may need help from team members or outside consultants you did not anticipate when you first started the business. Take stock now so you can plan accordingly.

Final thoughts

Most business owners don’t follow their business plans exactly. But writing one will get you off to a much better start than simply opening your doors and hoping for the best, and it will be easier to analyze any aspects of your business that aren’t working later so you can course-correct. Ultimately, it may be one of the best investments you can make in the future of your business.

Business plan FAQs

What are common mistakes when writing a business plan.

The biggest mistake you can make when writing a business plan is creating one before the idea has been properly researched and tested. Not every idea is meant to become a business. Other common mistakes include:

  • Not describing your management team in a way that is appealing to investors. Simply cutting and pasting someone’s professional bio into the management section won’t do the trick. You’ll want to highlight the credentials of each team member in a way that is relevant to this business.
  • Failing to include financial projections — or including overly optimistic ones. Investors look at a lot of business plans and can tell quickly whether your numbers are accurate or pie in the sky. Have a good small business accountant review your numbers to make sure they are realistic.
  • Lack of a clear exit strategy for investors. Investors may want the option to cash out eventually and would want to know how they can go about doing that.
  • Slapdash presentation. Make sure to fact-check any industry statistics you cite and that any charts, graphs or images are carefully prepared and easy to read.

What are the different types of business plans?

There are a variety of styles of business plans. Here are three major types:

Traditional business plan. This is a formal document for pitching to investors based on the outline in this article. If your business is a complicated one, the plan may exceed the typical length and stretch to as many as 50 pages.

One-page business plan. This is a simplified version of a formal business plan designed to fit on one page. Typically, each section will be described in bullet points or in a chart format rather than in the narrative style of an executive summary. It can be helpful as a summary document to give to investors — or for internal use. Another variation on the one-page theme is the business model canvas .

Lean plan. This methodology for creating a business plan is ideal for a business that is evolving quickly. It is designed in a way that makes it easy to update on a regular basis. Lean business plans are usually about one page long. The SBA has provided an example of what this type of plan includes on its website.

Is the business plan for a nonprofit different from the plan for other business types?

Many elements of a business plan for a nonprofit are similar to those of a for-profit business. However, because the goal of a nonprofit is achieving its mission — rather than turning a profit — the business plan should emphasize its specific goals on that front and how it will achieve them. Many nonprofits set key performance indicators (KPIs) — numbers that they track to show they are moving the needle on their goals.

Nonprofits will generally emphasize their fundraising strategies in their business plans rather than sales strategies. The funds they raise are the lifeblood of the programs they run.

What is the difference between a business plan, a strategic plan and a marketing plan?

A strategic plan is different from the type of business plan you’ve read about here in that it emphasizes the long-term goals of the business and how your business will achieve them over the long run. A strong business plan can function as both a business plan and a strategic plan.

A marketing plan is different from a business plan in that it is focused on four main areas of the business: product (what you are selling and how you will differentiate it), price (how much your products or services will cost and why), promotion (how you will get your ideal customer to notice and buy what you are selling) and place (where you will sell your products). A thorough business plan may cover these topics, doing double duty as both a business plan and a marketing plan.

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Editable business plan workbook

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Starting a new business

1 . Francis J. Green and Christian Hopp. “Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed.” HBR. July 14, 2017. Available online at https://hbr.org/2017/07/research-writing-a-business-plan-makes-your-startup-more-likely-to-succeed.

2 . CorpNet, “The Startup Business Plan: Why It’s Important and How You Can Create One,” June 29, 2022.

Important Disclosures and Information

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7 Steps to Form an LLC

1. check what requirements your state has, 2. name your business, 3. pick a registered agent, 4. file your articles of organization, 5. create an operating agreement, 6. plan for the future, 7. consider using a professional, 7 steps to start an llc for your small business.

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  • The exact steps for forming an LLC vary by state, but it's a similar process in most states.
  • You'll need a business name, a registered agent, articles of organization, and an operating agreement in certain states.
  • Save $25 when using Block Advisors to form your LLC today. Discount applied in cart.

If you're working on setting up your own business, there's a good chance you're looking to open a limited liability company, or LLC. This business structure gives you limited liability protection similar to a corporation, plus the flexibility of a sole proprietorship or partnership, making it a popular choice for small business owners.

The main perk of an LLC is that it generally can protect your personal assets (like the money you're saving up to buy a home or retire) from certain liabilities or debt that come with owning your business. In other words, in many cases, a creditor you owe money to through your business usually won't be able to come for the money in your personal accounts. Having an LLC can also legitimize your business, which may be a benefit to many small business owners.

If that sounds good, follow these steps to open your LLC.

  • Check what requirements your state has
  • Name your business
  • Pick a registered agent
  • File your articles of organization
  • Create an operating agreement
  • Plan for the future
  • Consider a professional service 

LLCs are regulated by states, which means that you'll have to meet the specific requirements outlined by the state where you're registering the LLC. You'll find this information easily on your Secretary of State's website.

While most steps necessary to establish an LLC will need to be done no matter which state you live in, the specific guidance for how to do each step — like naming your business and picking a registered agent — can vary.

Now that you have a business, it's time to choose a name for it. While you'll want something catchy and easy to market, it's also important to make sure that the name you choose meets your specific state's requirements.

First, you'll need to ensure that the name you choose isn't being used by another LLC in your state. You can typically do a name search on the Secretary of State's website ( here's Illinois' search tool , for example).

In general, you'll need to have certain words in the name that make it clear your business is an LLC, such as "Limited Liability Company," "LLC," or "L.L.C." Many states will also prohibit you from including certain words in the name. In New York, for instance, you can't include the words "academy," "bank," "finance," "union" and many more .

Every LLC has to have a registered agent who acts as the point person for any legal matters that may come up and for the Secretary of State to send any official paperwork to. Generally, that person (or business) must have a physical address in the state where your LLC is registered and be available to receive mail there during working hours. They also have to be at least 18 years old.

You can name yourself as the registered agent, but it may not be the best idea. If you're worried you might not be available to serve as the point person or might not be able to keep up with important mail, it might be best to outsource this role. There are registered agent services you can use, though they'll come at a cost.

Next, head back to the Secretary of State's website to find the articles of organization that you'll need to file. You can also meet with someone in the department in person or by phone if you prefer.

The exact information you'll have to fill out for the articles of organization will vary by state. Still, you can expect to be asked for basic information like your LLC's name, address, services, and how you expect it to be managed. You'll also need to pay a filing fee.

Keep in mind that the articles of an organization may be called something different, depending on the state. Alabama and Texas, for example, call it a "certificate of formation." Some states also have publication requirements, which means you need to publish an announcement of your new business in a newspaper.

While you'll likely divvy up responsibilities for anyone in your business on your own, you may also be required to do so via an operating agreement. These agreements outline how your business will be run and delegate roles and power to different members. That may include voting procedures, rules around daily operations, and ownership rights within the company.

Only some states require you to create this type of agreement, but it is a good idea to do so even if you don't technically have to.

Opening an LLC may be your first priority, but there are other tasks to take care of during the process, like getting your employer identification number (EIN). An EIN is an identifying number that the IRS will use for tax reasons, but it's not always required for opening an LLC.

You may also want to open a business bank account to ensure you keep your personal and business assets separate for bookkeeping and tax purposes. Plus, look into what exactly you need to keep your LLC active in your state, which may include filing an annual report.

A lot goes into opening and operating your own business, but you don't have to take care of everything on your own. Block Advisors , part of H&R Block, can help you decide which type of business structure is best for you, such as an LLC, and help you open that business. Using an online service to incorporate your business will help ensure that you submit all of the necessary paperwork required in your state of incorporation. This could save you time now and headaches later.

With Block Advisors, you're not on your own once your business is up and running. The service provides tax help, including filing your taxes with a professional or on your own with help from a live expert. You can also opt for one of its bookkeeping services , which range from a step-by-step guide to doing your own bookkeeping to working with your own dedicated accountant.

If you're looking to scale, Block Advisors also offers payroll services, which help you pay your employees each pay cycle and can make sure you stay compliant. There are three tiers to choose from — the basic service comes with a dedicated accountant, up to the premium service, which includes timekeeping, human resources assistance, and more.

*This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. You may want to seek the advice of an attorney to evaluate all relevant considerations in forming a business entity. 

**Block Advisors discount may not be combined with any other offer or promotion. Void if transferred and where prohibited. Discount will appear in your cart automatically when you use the link. No cash value. Expires June 30, 2024.

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Prepaid legal

What is a prepaid legal plan?

How is a prepaid legal plan different than a regular business lawyer.

Finding a traditional business attorney who is trustworthy, familiar with your area and industry, and can support your company’s specific legal needs can be difficult. Additionally, final costs can be unpredictable as business attorneys’ rates will vary for the types of legal services they provide and the number of hours spent.

With a prepaid legal plan, the heavy lifting is done for you—every business attorney on the plan is reviewed and evaluated to ensure trustworthiness, legal knowledge, and relevant experience. And because legal plans cost a flat rate that’s paid up front, pricing is more predictable.

6 ways our legal plans can help your business

During your company’s life cycle, there are numerous times where having reliable legal advice can help you make more informed business decisions. With a prepaid legal plan, you’ll always have convenient access to legal assistance from an experienced business lawyer for important events and all the times in between.

Business formation

When forming a new small business, an attorney can advise which entity type to choose, review your operating agreement and other documents, and answer any other setup questions you have.

Business growth

As your business gets bigger or expands to new markets, an attorney can advise you on adding investors, help you make key hiring decisions, or review a lease for a new physical location.

Day-to-day business

An experienced lawyer can assist with the regular course of business, such as how to navigate state laws or review a contract, non-disclosure agreement (NDA), or other legal documents.

Compliance issues

To keep your business in good standing and avoid penalties, an attorney can answer questions about any post-formation filings required by your state like operating agreements and annual reports.

Litigation risk

If your company is sued for any reason, a business attorney can guide you to understand what to do and the proper procedure for how to respond to a lawsuit.

Intellectual property

If your business needs to protect its name, logo, slogan, or other valuable creative work, a knowledgeable business lawyer can help you understand your trademark or copyright needs.

Frequently asked questions

What our customers are saying, what our network attorneys want business owners to know.

Anne, 19 years

"LegalZoom provides unlimited answers to everyday legal questions from the time you dream up your business plan to implementation, and to optimal profitability. Instead of paying thousands sometimes just to obtain the answer to a simple question, LegalZoom is there to help answer your questions quickly and effectively."

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